Now in his 15th NFL season — the fourth with Baltimore — Birk's knees are scarred from several operations and he had surgery during the offseason to repair varicose veins in his legs. But he played in all 16 games during the regular season and remained solid in the middle of the offensive line during the postseason.
"I'm not sure about Matt's plans," Harbaugh said. "If he decides to come back next year that would be awesome. He's smart, he's tough. To my eye, he's playing the best football that he's played since he's been here, right now. To have that be true at the end of a (long) season is very impressive. We would not be where we are without Matt Birk."
Looking ahead to the challenge next Sunday, Harbaugh called the 49ers "a very well-coached football team." He said it with a grin, because San Francisco is coached by his little brother, Jim.